Attorney to Help with Back Injuries
Back injuries are among the types of injuries that are most frequently encountered in the workers’ compensation system. Work-related back injuries arise in many different ways. Individuals get hurt lifting items, carrying heavy weights, pulling, pushing, catching items, in motor vehicle accidents, and falling just to name a few.
If you injure your back at work, there are a number of things you should know.
First, most back injuries are initially labeled as sprains and strains. For smaller injuries, this diagnosis may be appropriate. However, in most cases, where an injury continues to bother an injured worker well after his/her injury occurs, the diagnosis of sprain or strain should be considered little more than a placeholder. The reason one should consider a sprain/strain diagnosis as a placeholder in the case of more significant injuries is that, along with a sprain/strain, an individual with lingering back issues has usually suffered an injury that is more significant than just a sprain or strain. When that occurs, a number of actions have to be taken in the workers’ compensation claim to ensure that the injured worker gets the protection he or she needs.
In such a situation, the most important move to make is to determine the actual diagnosis and get the claim updated to reflect that diagnosis. This process is called getting the claim additionally allowed for the appropriate diagnosis. It is wise for an injured worker to consult an attorney when trying to get a claim additionally allowed because the stakes of getting conditions added to the claim are high and the pitfalls are many. If the appropriate conditions are not added to a claim or if those conditions are denied, treatment is likely to be denied. What makes this situation complex is that workers’ compensation is often looking for very specific things when deciding whether to add conditions to a claim and most times, these items are not in the record if the right steps are not taken. An experienced workers’ compensation attorney can review the claim to make sure that the right pieces are in place to get additional conditions in a claim, so it is best to consult an attorney any time you become aware of the need to add conditions to your claim (if not before, so the attorney can advise you whether such conditions may be present).
Most new back conditions are diagnosed through an MRI, CT Scan, or other diagnostic testing. It is wise to have such testing done as soon as possible after an injury so as to make it easier to connect any conditions that show up on the testing to the work injury. There are many conditions that appear on diagnostic testing which may be related to a work injury. Some of those conditions include the following
- Herniated discs
- Degenerative Disc Disease
- Disc Protrusions
- Disc Bulges
- Facet Arthropathy
- Fractured Lumbar Vertebrae
If any of these conditions show up on your diagnostic testing, you might want to consult an attorney to determine whether they should / whether they can be added to your claim. If you do not add the appropriate conditions, it is likely that treatment for your back will eventually be denied.
One of the most complicated issues in the workers’ compensation system involves “substantial aggravation of preexisting conditions.” Many back injuries involve questions of substantial aggravation. The situation occurs when an individual has a condition that existed prior to the injury which has been worsened by the injury. It is important to note that in most cases, the injured worker may not even know that this condition existed. However, due to some changes in the workers’ compensation system which were added in 2006 (based on political moves made by employers) if a condition can be deemed in any way as preexisting, a special standard comes in which makes it more difficult to get those conditions added to a claim. If substantial aggravation comes up related to your back injury, it is very important to talk to someone with significant experience in the workers’ compensation system about what needs to be written down by your doctors to give you the best chance of getting a substantial aggravation into your claim. Again, it cannot be stressed enough, workers’ compensation makes it so they can deny a condition as preexisting even if that condition caused no problems prior to an injury, so it is very important to approach substantial aggravation questions with the utmost attention.
A denial of injections is one of the most common early signs that a claim needs to be updated to include more significant diagnoses. The situation usually arises as follows: An injured worker has significant back pain. His or her doctor asks workers compensation to approve injections. Workers’ compensation denies those injections because the claim is only allowed for a lumbar sprain. Such a denial should signal to an injured worker that his or her claim needs to be updated. The reason is that injections are generally not directed at sprains and strains, but are directed are more significant disc issues. So if your doctor puts in for an injection, it is generally a sign that he or she suspects a problem more significant than a sprain or strain. The workers’ compensation claim will need to be updated to reflect the more significant problem in order to get injections (and any other significant treatment) approved. Updating/amending the claim is something that should be done in consultation with an attorney to ensure that it is done correctly.
Surgical requests often give rise to some of the same issues discussed in the previous paragraph regarding injections. Simply stated, workers’ compensation is unlikely to approve back surgery until the claim is updated to include the conditions toward which the surgery is directed. These conditions are generally things like herniated discs, degenerative disc disease, and stenosis. If you have surgery denied, there is a good chance some of these conditions need to be added to your claim (even when your doctor knows they exist and wants to treat them).
Low Back (Lumbar) Fusion
If the surgery your doctor wants to perform is a lumbar fusion things get even more complicated. Regardless of your claim allowances, the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation now requires doctors to go through a confusing set of requirements before they will even consider approving a lumbar fusion surgery. If your doctor is requesting such a surgery, and it is being denied, there is a good chance that all of these steps have not been completed. An attorney’s office can help go over these steps with an injured worker in the hopes that everyone can get the doctor’s office to take the steps necessary to get the fusion approved.
Many back injuries are significant enough that they lead to permanent restrictions. For an individual who suffers from such an injury, figuring out how to balance one’s career and one’s restrictions can be tricky. Workers’ compensation includes some protections to help in these circumstances, but a person really has to understand the system to figure out which protections come in when. For example, one question many injured workers often face is whether their employer has to honor their restrictions. The answer to this question is complicated. The employer cannot force an individual to perform work outside his/her restrictions, that does not necessarily mean that a job has to be provided that accommodates those restrictions. At the same time, if the employer does not accommodate the restrictions, there are often forms of compensation that can be sought for wages that are lost due to work-related limitations. This is another subject that an experienced workers’ compensation attorney’s office can really help an injured work through.
These are just a few of the many issues that an individual with a work-related back injury might encounter. If you are involved in any of these situations, feel free to contact The Harris Firm today. Moreover, if you have any other questions related to a work-related back injury, we are happy to help answer those questions as well. We are available to answer any of your questions about work-related injuries.